Tracing the Rainbow through the Rain: Loneliness

Genesis 28:10-16

Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran.  He came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place. He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” (Genesis 28:10-16 NASB)

Students of human behavior have observed that loneliness is the No. 1 plague facing Americans. Is that not also true of mankind at large? “The pain of loneliness is universal,” wrote Ida Nelle Hollaway.[1]

Thomas Wolfe, the famous novelist, penned these lines:

Loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon… is the central and inevitable fact of human existence. When we examine the moments, acts and statements of all kinds of people — not only the grief and ecstasy of the greatest poets, but also the huge unhappiness of the average soul, as evidenced by the innumerable strident words of abuse, hatred, contempt, mistrust and scorn that forever grate upon our ears as the man swarm passes s in the streets — we find, I think, that they are all suffering from the same thing. The final cause of their complaint is loneliness.[2]

A sense of loneliness has permeated literature, music, and drama. Through the years, songs of loneliness have flowed over the airwaves — “None but the Lonely Heart,” “Alone Again Naturally,” “One Alone,” “All By Myself,” “Bluer than Blue, Sadder than Sad,” “Feelings,” “You’re Only Lonely,” “Only the Lonely,” and even “You Picked a Fine Time to Leave M, Lucille.” I could fill up this chapter with song titles. Ditto with books about loneliness, depression, sorrow and forsakenness. Motion pictures and plays are shot through with loneliness. Carson McCuellers, who is well-remembered for A Member of the Wedding, wrote, “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.” Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is indeed a tragedy of isolation and loneliness.

Therefore, we should not feel surprised that loneliness appears early in the Word of God. It was God the Creator who decided, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18a NASB). And there are theologians who claim that God created mankind because He, the creator God of the universe, was lonely and wanted fellowship and companionship with His creatures.

Young Jacob was haunted by this same feeling of being cut off, estranged, isolated, barren and alone. In Genesis 28 he was existing in a state of loneliness for this was his first time away from home. Jacob’s hunter-brother, Esau, was used to the vast outdoors. But that was not the case with Jacob, the homebody, the cook and errand boy for his mother, Rebekah. He was accustomed to being by the home fires and enjoyed the sound of human voices and the comforts of home.

Now he was alone and grappling with a gnawing sense of loneliness, accompanied by fear of the unknown and fear for his life itself. It reminds you of a song by Merle Haggard — This Loneliness is Eating Me Alive.” And loneliness was doing exactly that to Jacob.

Then the sun began to descend below the horizon. In spite of the Oriental heat, it soon began to chill. The fingers of darkness crept over the land. It always seems to become lonelier when that happens. Fearful, nervous Jacob began to seek a place to rest. He thought of his warm pallet back home and the solicitous voice of his mother. Perhaps he longed for her good-night kisses.

There was no pillow, no furnishings for a bed, so he substituted a rock and lay down fitfully. No doubt his fevered brain returned to family laughter of bygone days. But then each noise of night time stirred up uneasiness and fright within Jacob. Every rustling leave, every nocturnal insect, every slight breeze, every call of a night animal or bird conjured of visions of harm and calamity.

Young Jacob finally dozed off to sleep and God visited him. In a dream God presented a vision of a ladder which reached clear to the throne of heaven. There was young Jacob, fearful and frightened with a stone pillow and nothing for cover but the black blanket of night. The Almighty never cares about our surroundings when He chooses to visit us.

Maybe you can identify with Jacob — living in loneliness.

Lonely people include the executive on the way up who no longer talks to his wife; the young man or woman alone for the first time in an apartment complex in a large city; the suburban housewife surrounded by small children and by neighbors whom she does not know. There are lonely people among the “swingers” who spend their evenings in darkened bars, hoping for someone to talk with. Couples who just moved for the third time in two years may be lonely. They despair of making friends before they have to take up roots again because of a job transfer. The airlines personnel who meet many people eon airplanes, know very few. The salesman who has to travel all week, and his wife who stays home alone may both be lonely. Don’t’ forget the “migratory workers” a group which includes more people than just those who follow the crops. Professional sportsmen, entertainers, long-distance truck drivers, oil specialists, and scientific engineers, as well as military personnel, are all “migratory workers.” They have to travel long distances in order to do their work.[3]

We live in the midst of loneliness, and all of us have lonely periods. A husband and wife have an argument. They are momentarily estranged emotionally. She retreats to the bedroom and closes the door. He buries himself in a football game on TV or drives off to play video games. Even though they may love each other dearly, they are temporarily lonely in spirit. No person is free of feeling lonely, even amid a crowd of people.

Walk down a busy street and intently watch faces. You will come away downtrodden, noticing pain, sadness, upset, and sometimes blank, stoic stares. At least half of the people will be single — never-married, widowed or divorced. Divorce is of epidemic proportions, and many people are merely living together — thus when a living-together couple breaks up, there is no statistic on the books, but deep emotional and psychic pain is nearly always the result.

And many people are not gregarious and outgoing .They have difficulty relating and making friends; they tend to become more and more withdrawn into themselves, and they often feel that no one cares.

In this chapter I present four secrets that will enable us not only to deal with loneliness, but to overcome it — and to live beyond it. Part of our problem is that we all too often deal with the fruits and not the roots. Until we begin to deal with the root, we will simply continue on a never-ending treadmill of loneliness, never actually moving but staying in the same spot, even though we are desperately trying to make progress.

Reasons

And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. And he lighted upon a certain place and tarried there all night because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. (10-11 KJV).

Why does loneliness set in? Before continuing, let us not confuse two words — alone and lonely. They are not necessarily synonymous. I know many people who are alone but not lonely. I know of others who are surrounded by people and yet they live in loneliness. What makes the difference? We are coming to the answer momentarily.

Why was Jacob lonely? One solid reason is: he was lonely because his betrayed, double-crossed, irate brother Esau was in hot pursuit of Jacob. Every Sunday school child has heard the story of how Jacob, egged on by his mother, connived to steal the birthright which, by Hebrew tradition, belonged to Esau. No wonder Jacob’s name meant “trickster” or “supplanter.” Why was Jacob lonely? Most would reply that Jacob was lonely because his brother was chasing him, and they would stop right there — no analysis, no going deeper.

Yet we ought to proceed one step further. Why was Esau chasing him. The answer is self-evident. Jacob had cheated, lied, stolen and done treacherously. Jacob never learned to handle his isolation and loneliness until he began to assume responsibility for his own deeds.

Society is filled with people sometimes called sociopaths and, in extreme cases, psychopaths. They never accept the blame, even if they are wrong a thousand times. They despise responsibility. They are never to blame; others are always at fault. Over a period of time, these people build up far-out defense mechanism for themselves and become totally blinded concerning their own condition.

All of us have a streak of sociopathy. All of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God. “All we like sheep have gone astray.” Our hearts are deceitful above all things and are desperately wicked. As my friend Grady Wilson put it, “There’s a little bit of Watergate in all of us.” It is easy to blame our “Esaus” for the predicaments in which we find ourselves, all too often self-induced difficulties. The habit of passing the buck started in the Garden of Eden. Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. But Adam and Eve did it, not the serpent. He merely laid the temptation in front of them. Even could have refused the fruit. So could have Adam. Years ago there was a song, “Put the Blame on Mame, Boys.” Put the blame on Esau, put the blame on the devil — but never yourself. And that’s why people can never overcome estrangement or loneliness. They never seem to realize that they might sometimes have a hand in their own loneliness.

Quite frankly, many are lonely because of sinful and unscrupulous schemes and actions like Jacob. Others are lonely because of present failures. Still others are lonely because of future bugaboos. Loneliness is often associated with ingrown self-pity.

Once a young man visited the study of the late and great preacher, T. Dewitt Talmage. He lamented, “Dr. Talmage, I have no will to live. I’m not sure of my salvation. In fact, I’m not even sure about the existence of God. I really wish I were dead!” Dr. Talmage replied, after the young man had requested the church remove him from the roll, “All right, we will remove you if that is your wish, but first I want to send you out on an assignment. Will you go?” The fellow would and did.

Dr. Talmage asked the young man to visit an old man who was dying of cancer. Reluctantly, the fellow left to contact the man, who lived in a decaying section of the city.

Hours later the fellow returned and happened to catch Dr. Talmage in his office. With a radiant light on his face, the young man exulted, “Dr. Talmage, it was wonderful. I visited the old man in his rags and poverty. Would you believe it? — the man asked me how he could be saved and could prepare to meet his God. As best I could I showed him the plan of salvation. He bowed his head, Dr. Talmage and called on the Lord to save him! His last words to me were, ‘Son you are an angel. I’m ready to meet God now. Thank you so much for coming!’ Dr. Talmage, leave my name on the roll and give me another assignment for visitation!”

In a short time, the young man had his relationship with the Lord rekindled. He had discovered a secret: Only by staying busy for God can we overcome depression, doubt and self-pity.

Jacob was responsible for his own loneliness. The primary reason for Jacob’s loneliness, and ours, is that we shut ourselves in and others out. The poet Edwin Markham fashioned these immortal lines:

He drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a think to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

The morbidly lonely person is often avoided by others. They recoil from negativism and self-pity. “Misery loves company,” the old expression goes, and people want no part of miserable self-pity. People cannot stand self-pity. Write it down and underline it in red: Loneliness is not so much a matter of isolation as it is of insulation. I have no idea how you actually feel — I cannot plumb the depths of your heart. Only the All-seeing Eye can. Perhaps I would react exactly as you do to your own particular set of circumstances. But I remind you that insulation is not the way out of your dilemma. If we are ever to wrestle with and win over loneliness, we must dig down to the root cause. Most of the time we find ourselves there.

Amazingly, most attractive, vivacious people become lonely derelicts. Are you lonely? At the same time, are you willing to touch the sensitive nerve? Are you willing to do a “root canal” of your inner being? Do you shrug off the causes of your loneliness? Begin by asking, “What do I have to do with it? Are only others to blame? Why am I in this fix?

There is a possibility that your loneliness is the result of circumstances beyond your control, but that possibility is rare. The biblical principle goes, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). The simple truth is: We will reap what we sow. It applies in all of life. One preacher called it “The Law of the Harvest.”

The fact is: IF we are lonely, we should find another lonely person and pour our lives into them. IF we merely open ourselves before long people will materialize from all over, ministering life and love to us. Many of us are Dead Sea Christians. The Dead Sea receives, and the flow stops there. Bodies of water can stagnate unless there is a flowing in and flowing out. Many people are on the receiving end too much of the time. Believe it or not, the more you receive without giving, the deeper you will sink into isolation, insulation and loneliness.

This is a prevalent sin among church members. Many of them join the church and think in terms of “what has the church done for me?” somehow they never seem to understand that when a person embraces Jesus Christ, the tables are turned. In Christ, even for the brand-new Christian, there is supposed to be service toward others. Life in Christ is a radical move away from preoccupation with self — self-obsession, self-worship, self-pity. Christianity is a gospel of giving.

Paul, on the road to Damascus, first asked, “Who are thou, Lord” Perhaps he already knew, but it is clear that when Jesus’ identity was established in Paul’s mind, he immediately asked, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” That’s one of the first questions a born-again believer ought to ask.

Too many of us have been building walls instead of bridges. Loneliness will abate as we, through Christ’s name, reach out to others.

Then I want you to notice a…

Remedy

And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. (Gen. 28:12-14 KJV)

After Jacob had fallen asleep, the Lord showed him the remedy for loneliness. How? Jacob became aware of the Lord’s abiding presence. Thankfully, many of us have had special experiences with the Lord in the nick of time… just when we needed them most. Maybe it was a verse of Scripture which became your rhema, your special word for that occasion. Perhaps it was a sermon, and you felt every word was prepared especially for you in your condition. Or it was a clear-cut answer to prayer, or deliverance from the jaws of death, or a person who entered your life (and later you asked yourself, Was that God’s angel sent to me?).

In a moment of your loneliness — as you traced the rainbow through the rain — God has revealed Himself to you. For that time you felt that no one on the face of the earth ever had exactly that kind of close, intimate relationship with the Lord. Yes, you felt special to the Lord, and you are special to Him.

Jacob clung to the presence of God at Bethel. The prevailing presence of God was the was the remedy for his gnawing loneliness.

To me the ladder represents communion with God. I think in terms of the Lord Jesus being that ladder from earth to heaven. How I love that old chorus, “We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder.” The predominant truth is: God always takes the initiative with us. Christianity is not man seeking God — it is God seeking man. The entire meaning of God’s Word is that seeking God who goes after his lost creatures. Christmas and Easter and every Christian observance point to the God who always takes the initiative.

The grace of God is manifestly revealed here in this passage. Jacob was a conniving, scheming fugitive who had lied and cheated. What had he done to deserve this holy moment with God? Nothing! He deserved exactly the opposite. And none of us have done anything to deserve the “marvelous grace of our loving Lord!” Jesus Himself the Ladder, stated in John 1:51, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, hereafter you shall see heaven open and the angels of God descending and ascending upon the Son of man.” Jesus has reached down to where we are.

As Julia H. Johnston has expressed it:

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt,
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt

Marvelous, infinite matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe;
All who are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.[4]

And none of us deserve this marvelous, infinite, matchless grace!

The Ladder is reaching down to you at this moment. He is the remedy. The ladder extended clear down to where Jacob lay in his lying, cheating and stealing. Maybe you are presently lying in corruption and sin. Perhaps you consider yourself too sophisticated to admit your guilt, even to God who will listen to your confession in secret. Jesus, with every drop of His blood, reaches down to you.

Could it be that the bonds of sin are strangling the life out of you? Jesus will break those bonds and allow you to breathe the invigorating breezes of heaven. You are lonely — then let Jesus fill the void within your heart and life. The weakest, vilest sinner can, through the Ladder of the Lord, climb from the pit of degradation to the foot of the eternal throne, and that is why we can sing:

Oh the love that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span!
At Calvary!    - William R. Newell

Then we notice the angels. They ascended on the ladder, symbolic of our prayers going up to God, I believe. They descended, representative of our answers to those petitions. For years, many evangelicals shied away from the doctrine of angels. The Bible is chockfull of angels. I refer here to Hebrews 1:13-14, “But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” In addition to the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit, the angels of God minister to us with comfort and with watchcare. What a sweeping relief when Jacob finally realized his reasons for loneliness and the remedy for it. We need never again yield to feelings of loneliness if we will remember that Jesus reaches down to where we are and loves us unconditionally.

Remember there is a difference between being alone and being lonely.

Obviously, it is wrong to equate loneliness with being alone. Aloneness can be a blessing, a source of growth and of joy. On the other hand, being with others does not insulate us from loneliness. It is true to say that loneliness is a feeling of aloneness, a consciousness that no one can completely share our feelings or completely understand our thoughts.[5]

Being alone is an integral part of spiritual growth. How often we preachers have talked about a “quiet time” with God, and how few of us practice it! Our own Lord withdrew for fellowship with His Heavenly Father. Then He returned and ministered to the pressing, teeming throngs. It is abnormal not to seek solitude occasionally. One comedian feared being alone to the extent that he hired people to sit up with him all hours of the night. Sometimes he would finally fall asleep at four or five in the morning.

Many people hate solitude because they are afraid of introspection. They are afraid to face themselves in private! So they surround themselves with activity, hubbub, hustle. Those who habituate bars and taverns must receive extra power from the devil to drink glass after glass of booze and sit up all night, and then try to show up for work at 8 or 9 in the morning!

In being alone, Jacob met God. If he had surrounded himself with an entourage of laughing, talking companions, he never would’ve experienced this amazing encounter.

Has it occurred to you that more often than not God reveals His plan for our lives when we are alone? Moses was alone on the backside of the desert when God revealed Himself. Elijah was alone under a juniper tree when God came. And Jacob was alone with stones for a pillow when the Lord revealed Himself as the Ladder to heaven.

Being alone for a time is not all bad, then, is it? So you have plenty of time alone — by yourself? Have you ever thought of praising God for that time — those precious moments for communion with God, for collecting your wits, for going deeper in the Word, for writing a spiritual diary, and for generally growing as a follower of Christ Jesus? You can be alone, but you don’t have to be lonely. There are reasons for loneliness, and there is a remedy for it. Then there is a

Revelation

And behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of (v. 15 KJV).

The “still small voice” can only be heard when all other voices have been hushed. What a magnificent revelation and promise god gave to Jacob that night! He received the promise of God’s divine presence. Jacob felt lonely to the core, but the Lord assured Him, “I am with you.”

If only we could realize that we are never truly alone when the Lord Jesus Christ lives within our hearts!

I’ve seen the lightning flashing,
I’ve heard the thunder roll.
I’ve seen storms breakers dashing
Trying to conquer my soul.
I heard the voice of Jesus telling
Telling me still to fight on.
He promised never to leave me,
Never to leave me alone.[6]

That was the promise of God to Jacob. I will never leave you alone. I will be with you. I will never forsake you. And many of us ought to hear that right now. In our loneliness we often feel that no one cares, that no one is there. But Jesus cares. And He is always there, but we have to be reminded of it.

Jacob also received the promise of God’s divine protection. He had been cringing at the thought of Esau, but God declared, “I will keep you.” You ought to hear that today. God has never gone back on His promises, not one time. He always follows through. When He promises to guide you, He will do it. When He promises His presence, He will be there. When He promises His protection, He will do precisely that — protect you. God continues to promise: “I will keep you in all the places you are going.”

But there is even more. Jacob also received the promise of God’s divine preservation. He felt forsaken by all his friends and most of his relations. He was bereft before God promised, “I will bring thee again into this land.” Don’t you need to hear that within your heart? At that moment you may see no escape out of your predicament. You may feel there is no way of coming back to the place you once were with God, but God promises that He will preserve you and restore you. Claim that promise as your own!

In these verses we also discover God’s divine promise. God had emphatically promised Jacob He would carry on the seed of Abraham in the lineage of the coming Messiah, yet now the possibilities seemed remote... but God had promised, “I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.” Allow the Holy Spirit to fortify your heart with that truth. God is going to perform as He has promised. Lay aside your preoccupation with loneliness and forsakenness and trust God’s absolute word.

These are comfort in and precious words, but they belong only to those who camp at the foot of the cross which unites heaven and earth. Are you lonely? What are the reasons/ Are you even partly responsible? There is a remedy for it. Jesus is reaching down to you right this moment, and the revelation is here. He will give you the promise of His presence and protection. Then will come your

Response

And Jacob awakened from his sleep and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not (v. 16 KJV)

What was Jacob’s response when all of these factors began to mesh — when he began to realize the reasons for his loneliness, when he saw the Ladder reaching down as a remedy, and when he received the revelation of the promise of God’s presence?  He exclaimed, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I knew it not.” God was there all the time, and I didn’t even know it. Note the tenses — is and knew. And when all was said and done, God reaffirmed His promises: “I will not leave thee until I have accomplished my purpose,” in essence.

Dear friend, in the words of Jacob, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not.” He is in the place near you, and perhaps you are not aware of it. You who are lonely have the promise of God’s Word, “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted/And saves those who are crushed in spirit” (PS. 34:18 NASB). Tender-hearted Jesus calls:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matt. 11:28-30 KJV).

Surely the Lord is in that place by you. The fact is, He has been there all the time. HE was beside you in that bed of pain, and you might not have known it. He was with you in that precarious church, work or home situation and you knew it or not. He walked with you on that rocky pathway, and you were not aware of it, even as the two disciples were unaware that Jesus was walking with them on the road to Emmaus. They were alongside Him but could not recognize that it was Jesus Himself.

He was weeping with you in your anguish and pain and you knew it now. He was holding your hand in the deepest of despair, and you were insensitive. Yes, and He was there in those haunting moments of loneliness. Jesus was there all the time, and you might not have known it.

So, I challenge you to join Jacob in responding, “Surely the Lord was in this place and I knew it not.” It is intriguing to note in Genesis 28:19 that Jacob changed the name of the pace from Luz to Bethel. Luz meant “separation” and that is what loneliness does. It separates us. But Bethel meant “house of God,” the dwelling place of God Himself. To me, that chant change of names implies a spiritual lesson: We must separate ourselves from the world, and in so doing, we will enter the house of God.

As you step into the conscious presence of the Father, through the Ladder, you will declare: “Surely the Lord is in this place and now I know it!” glory in His presence. Praise Him for His providence. Thank Him for His protection. Magnify Him for His never-failing, never-ending promises.

Yet, some are seemingly locked into loneliness. Although no one else seems to understand, there is One who does. His name is Jesus. Annie B. Russell touchingly put it:

There is never a day so dreary,
There is never a night so long,
But the soul that is trusting Jesus
Will somewhere find a song

There is never a care or burden,
There is never a grief or loss,
But that Jesus in love will lighten
When carried to the cross.

Wonderful, wonderful Jesus,
In the heart He implanteth a song:
A song of deliverance, of courage, of strength,
In the heart He implanteth a song.

“Wonderful, wonderful Jesus!” “His name is wonderful!” “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds.” “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know.”

Jesus cares; Jesus understands. Jesus experienced the abysmal impact of loneliness. Just when he needed His friends the most — when He was impaled on that cruel cross — they forsook Him and fled. Judas betrayed Him with a kiss. None of them would stay awake during His vigil in dark Gethsemane. And then on the cross, the Father turned His back on the Son. Talk about loneliness! In the awesome agony of that excruciatingly lonely moment, our Lord literally screamed aloud, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken Me?”

No human words can describe His loneliness on the tree. It is no wonder that He is now able to empathize and sympathize with us in our loneliness. Jesus has felt the pain we feel — and infinitely worse because He “became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God through him.” There is a real sense in which Jesus does feel the pain you feel. He sympathizes with you in your loneliness. HE enters into our struggle with loneliness and isolation.

And He goes beyond sympathy to empathy. Sympathy is defined as feelings of pity for another person, but empathy goes far beyond mere feeling sorry for a person, pity. Empathy means actually to feel with and become involved with another. The perfect picture of empathy is found in Matthew 9:35:

But when He saw the multitudes he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.

The phrase, “moved with compassion,” literally means that His heart went out to them. He was caught up in their sickness and suffering. He was saddened because of their sins. His was and is a divine empathy.

Paul capsulated His empathy in Philippians 2:

Who being in the form of God, thought I not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (vv. 6-8).

And James wrote:

Behold we count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful (5:11 NASB).

Jesus sympathizes and empathizes with us. He hurts with us. One of the early church leaders believed in an idea called patripassionism. It meant that while the Son was on the cross, the Heavenly Father suffered with Him. For surely we know that God the Son has suffered for us and even now suffers with us.

Jesus has incomparable compassion, standing nearby to comfort and cheer. Many years ago it was a custom for mothers to say to their hurting, injured children: “Let mama kiss it and make it well.” Beloved, that’s what Jesus does! He kisses us through the Spirit and makes us well.

Many of us have tried every avenue and outlet but Him. Folks have tried alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, expensive hobbies, material possessions, and a thousand other pursuits. Nothing will fill the emptiness of the heart until Jesus is invited in. With Him you need never be lonely. He will keep you company morning, noon and night. He will sit with you in your sicknesses, ease your suffering, bind up your wounds, dry your tears.. and help you to open yourself to include others in your life. He will lift you from loneliness to love and lilting life in Him.

There’s within my heart a melody;
Jesus whispers sweet and low,
“Fear not, I am with thee, peace, be sill”
In all of life’s ebb and flow.

All my life was wrecked by sin and strife,
Discord filled my heart with pain,
Jesus swept across the broken strings,
Stirred the slumb’ring chords again

Tho’ sometimes he leads thro’ waters deep,
Trials fall across the way,
Tho’ sometimes the path seems rough and steep,
See his footprints all the way.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Sweetest name I know,
Fills my ev’ry longing, Keeps me singing as I go.[7]

“Surely the Lord is in this place.” He understands your loneliness, and He has promised to stay with you while you are tracing the rainbow throw the rain.



[1] Ida Nelle Hollaway, Loneliness: The Untapped Resource (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1982), p. 34.

[2] From The Hills Beyond (New York: Harper Brothers, 1941), p. 186.

[3] Velma Darbo Stevens, A Fresh Look at Loneliness (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1981), pp 9-10.

[4] Words by Julia H. Johnston, 1910. Copyright 1910. Renewal 1936 extended. Hope Publishing Co., owner. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

[5] Hollaway, ibid., pp. 75-76.

[6] Author unknown. The tune to “Never Alone” was composed by B.B. McKinney.

[7] Words (and tune SWEETEST NAME), Luther B. Bridgers, 1910. Copyright 1910. Renewal 1937. Broadman Press. All rights reserved.

Tracing the Rainbow through the Rain

ON A PERSONAL NOTE:

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